City Council to weigh in on Old Fort Tuesday

Discussion to follow budget talk at 4:30 p.m.


FORT MADISON – Fort Madison city officials will take a closer look at options for the Old Fort at a special meeting Tuesday night in Fort Madison.

City officials announced just over a week ago that they would be closing the replica on the city’s riverfront as safety concerns mounted over the condition of the 38-year-old facility.

Councilwoman Rebecca Bowker has taken to social media to invite everyone with an interest in future functionality of the Fort as it pertains the city, to attend.

“This is an opportunity (to) bring your thoughts to the table. But it is also your opportunity to assist,” Bowker said. “You can donate your engineering experience, you can donate your fundraising organizing experience, you can donate your construction/labor to assist in whatever the final plan is, or you can donate your money to saving the Fort Madison.”

On Wednesday, Jan. 18 Old Fort staff posted on an independent Facebook page, that following a meeting with the city staff, the Fort was slated to be closed and razed.

Officials that afternoon said someone had “spoken out of turn” and that the council had not made any decisions regarding the future of the facility in Riverview Park. Further into the afternoon, a statement was released from the city indicating the fort would be closed and options for reconstruction would be discussed by the council at a future meeting.

The Fort has been operated by Dr. Eugene Watkins and, after a tour of the facility earlier that week, the city’s Fire Chief Joey Herren and Building Director Doug Krogmeier said it was unsafe for visitors.

According to the statement from the city entitled “City To Take Down Old Fort Buildings”, the Fort, sitting in the flood plain of the Mississippi River, has flooded on several occasions, making it unsuitable for reconstruction.

Options include finding a different location for the Fort or a musem that includes a replica of the fort, or possibly combining the Fort with an existing entity.

The meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers with a discussion on the city’s proposed 2023-24 budget, with debate on the Fort set to follow.

The Fort was originally built with a $10,000 Iowa Cultural grant and federal revenue sharing. The buildings were constructed by prison inmates and then disassembled and moved to the current location in Riverview Park in 1985. Other buildings were then added and dedicated in 1988, and opened to the public the week of the Tri-State Rodeo that year.

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